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Doubleheader, extra innings rules extended for 2021

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MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to implement again in 2021 the pandemic-related rule changes relating to doubleheaders and extra inning games adopted in 2020

Houston Astros v Texas Rangers Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to continue in 2021 the implementation of certain rules changes adopted in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, per multiple reports. Specifically, any doubleheaders that are played in 2021 will have both games be seven innings, rather than nine innings, and when games go into extra innings, a runner will be placed on second base to start each inning.

These rules are being adopted in anticipation of the likelihood that there will be games that have to be postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests, as happened quite a bit in 2020, which will necessitate playing doubleheaders to make up those games, and potentially eliminating some off days. This is designed to reduce the wear and tear on players as a result of potentially playing more games in a shorter time frame.

There is still no agreement on expanded playoffs or a universal DH, two things that were implemented in 2020, and which have been the subject of ongoing negotiations. The MLBPA views — not incorrectly, I think — the universal DH as something that the owners generally want, or at least are neutral towards, and so while MLB is using the universal DH as a “give” to the union to get something (in this case, expanded playoffs) from the players in return, the players don’t see the universal DH as a real concession by owners.

Of course, the agreement on the universal DH and expanded playoffs came together right before the MLB season started in July last year, so while neither of those things have been agreed to as of yet, its not out of the question that the parties end up following a similar path in 2021, reaching an agreement between now and the start of the regular season.

UPDATEA few more procedural rule changes from J.J. Cooper at that are noteworthy...

The active roster will be 26 players for 2021, expanded to 28 for September, which was what it was going to be for 2020 before the pandemic hit. The limits on the number of pitchers on the active roster, however, is not being implemented.

In addition, a player who is added to the active roster due to a COVID-19 outbreak on a team can be removed from the active and 40 man roster without needing to be waived or outrighted. Thus, if a team loses, say, 10 players due to COVID, and needs to add players from the minors who aren’t currently on the 40 man roster in order to fill in, when the COVID-i.l.’d players return, the players added temporarily can be removed from the active and 40 man roster without the team risking losing the players.